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Mobile: it's not just for kids anymore

Mobile: it's not just for kids anymore Evan Gerber

Mobile marketing is growing into maturity and rapidly expanding from its core base of teenage users to capture adults as well. While it is quite possible to deliver successful marketing campaigns to these disparate audiences, it's critical to remember that what works for kids won't always fly for grown-ups.

To succeed, the savvy brand manager must never forget three things. First, content is king, but the realm is quite different from the traditional web. Second, mobile opens up new dimensions of access, notably location and time. These must be deeply understood before a campaign is launched to fully benefit from going mobile. Finally, the etiquette is different, which impacts expectations. Being invasive will kill a pitch in no time. A smart marketing program will reach out with a delicate touch, providing the right mix of offering and information.

Huge growth means moving targets
A quick look at where the market stands clearly indicates that the adult mobile market will grow quickly in the immediate future. Currently, seven out of 10 U.S. adults have a mobile phone, and it's predicted to reach 85 percent in 2010. At the moment, only 17 percent of users -- mostly teenagers -- are actively on the mobile web. It is safe to say that as the carrier market matures and phones become more sophisticated, the remaining 83 percent of adult phone users will also begin to use the mobile web.

This growth will be fueled, in large part, by an evolving carrier landscape as well as the speed with which phones are evolving in capability, usability and sophistication. But this growth means that some brand managers must adapt to a wide variety of target devices. It's tricky because users with nicer devices expect richer experiences, but brand managers must not forget people not on the cutting edge. Until the phone market standardizes, it's crucial that brand managers consider what platforms their audiences are on and design with that in mind. The large banking applications designed by Bank of America and Citibank, targeted toward a large demographic swath, work on a vide variety of platforms.

Author notes: Evan Gerber is principal experience design consultant at Molecular. Read full bio.

In 2006, mobile commerce first made a meaningful appearance on the scene. A lot of it was targeted to the youth audience, as they had the greatest familiarity with the medium and could overcome the usability hurdles associated.

Tools such as chat clients are standard fare on many phone platforms, or basic tools such as a small WAP browser. Mobile sites with content for the younger market, such as Twitter's social networking platform, have proliferated because they provide content and information tailored to the lifestyles of the audience. It is extremely important to remember that kids and adults want different things from their devices. Adults tend to use their phones like tools -- a sort of digital jackknife to perform tasks -- while most kids think of the phone as a device for social contact.  

The growth to provide relevant information for adults has been slower, but successful web destinations are popping up. Travel sites, such as Conde Nast's Concierge, financial resources like Yahoo (wap.oa.yahoo.com), as well as food reviews from Zagat-to-go, will all appeal to those with a higher earning potential.

Adult marketing, however, does not mean stodgy marketing -- The New Yorker is offering hysterical videos for people to watch, with advertising tacked on to them.

As the mobile internet in the U.S. becomes increasingly mature, online ad spend is expected to grow rapidly. Strategy Analytics predicts that advertisers will spend $1.4 billion on mobile media in 2007, and by 2011, that number will be closer to $14.4 billion. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said that the behemoth is actively targeting mobile ads, as "they are twice as profitable or more than the non-mobile phone ads because they're more personal." The trick is to use mobile to your advantage.

When creating a personalized campaign, remember who the key users are and adapt the experience to them. Land Rover recently ran a campaign targeting 25- to 54-year-olds, which was very successful, funneling a highly qualified 3 percent of users to click to call. By leveraging the tools that are already on board the phone, in this case Google maps, the ad drives traffic.

Perhaps the greatest challenge to developing a successful mobile campaign is not being invasive. Simply put: people don't like telemarketers, and they see their phones as very personal.

Seventy-nine percent of consumers surveyed by Forrester Research did not like the idea of mobile marketing, as they found it interrupting and invasive. It is crucial that experiences never seem prying, and that smart brand managers figure out a way to drive opt-in interactions. One great approach is to provide a service for users, which takes advantage of the mobile environment.

For example, DHL is providing a service for San Francisco Bay Area consumers where they can access weather information on their mobile phones, as well as download a Tetris-like game for their handheld devices.

"The basic objective is to use breakthrough media tactics, such as eye-catching out-of-home units requesting engagement. It's all about providing utility for the consumer," Mandel said in a June ClickZ article. "With mobile marketing, the keys to the kingdom are how you can provide something for the consumer."

As the mobile market grows, the core demographic is shifting from teens to adults. Brands are faced with exciting new opportunities to reach their consumers, in many different ways. Static WAP sites, online video, SMS, MMS and other means of reaching the consumer represent a new territory in marketing. It's crucial, however, that brand managers understand how to embrace a market that is growing and changing, while offering content that provides value to the consumer on the go. Leveraging phone features and functionality is a solid first move in that direction, and providing a service that users will want is key to succeeding.

Since the late ‘90s, Evan Gerber has created innovated technology solutions for unique business problems. Evan is the Vice President of Mobile Design and Emerging Interactions at Fidelity Investments.  An avid technophile and self...

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